Two teachers talking about quietly quitting in teaching.

By Jane Morris

I am and have almost always been, a shameless quiet quitter. And that is mostly how I’ve stayed in the teaching profession for 15+ years. First, let me explain what quiet quitting is, and then I will walk you through my own particular brand of it regarding teaching. If you are at the end of your rope with teaching, I highly recommend you give quiet quitting a try.

Quiet Quitting in Teaching

Quiet quitting is a fairly new, trendy concept that has been thrown around social media lately, but the idea isn’t all that revolutionary. And it doesn’t involve quitting at all.

Various sources will tell you that all it entails is only doing exactly what is in your job description and nothing more. No putting in extra hours or effort. Just the bare minimum functions that are expected. The problem with that concept, when related to teaching, is that there is no real job description we are given and expectations and responsibilities are constantly piling up. When looking at a bunch of basic teacher evaluation forms they all boil down to similar expectations: preparedness and planning, knowledge of the subject, use of a variety of tools and strategies, professionalism, and appropriate and timely feedback.

Let’s break each of these expectations down to what is really expected, what is actually necessary, and my tidbits of wisdom on the matter of quiet quitting.

Woman standing in front of a sign that says, "Teacher stress? Do less."

1. Preparedness and Planning

What generally falls under this category is having lessons ready to go beforehand, along with materials such as worksheets and markers. I think it is obvious that this is a necessity but just how much do you need to plan? If you’ve taught the course before, you should be able to figure out what you need ahead of time. Your personality type will dictate exactly how much time you will prepare beforehand.

For me, having two days planned with items ready to go is good enough. I’ve taught at schools that want some kind of “lesson plan” for the following week, so I would put a bunch of stuff on there and then maybe do that stuff, maybe not. No one ever looked, checked, or cared.

Have to turn in a year’s worth of plans? (Eww, what kind of monsters are you even working for?) Ask others to share entire units with you and throw those together to turn in. I can almost guarantee that no one will be comparing to see if you follow through with all that. Don’t have anyone that will share? Google, baby. And don’t go spending money on Teachers Pay Teachers either. There is plenty of free stuff out there that will suffice.

Plan for Emergencies

Another bit of advice on how to quietly quit as a teacher is planning for day-of teaching emergencies.

I recommend printing out a ton of worksheets to have on hand for emergencies if something you planned doesn’t take up enough time, or you have a headache and don’t feel like doing that teacher-led assignment you were planning to do. Other than that, stop trying to make everything perfect, amazing, super-duper engaging, beautiful, etc.

I can definitely fall into that trap when I start making something in Canva (dog gifs, anyone?) but the truth is that the students might appreciate it for a second, and then they’ll move on with their lives and get back on their phones. Plus, that mind-blowing, technologically advanced thing you made will be totally lame in two years. Do something simple and move on.

2. Knowledge of the Subject

Do we even need to discuss this?

Obviously, if you can’t do AP Calculus that well you shouldn’t sign up to teach it. I truly think this category exists to get rid of the occasional weirdo who gets hired to teach something and then doesn’t know what they’re talking about and just tells random stories and/or shows movies.

Teacher in an interview wondering why they are asking questions about pedagogy when they are in desperate need of teachers.

3. Variety of Tools and Strategies

What this is really saying is that you can’t be a complete and total bore or put in zero effort. You can’t just lecture/babble for the entire period, or show a movie every day. But you can do a bit of those, mixed in with group work, creative projects, and discussions.

Believe it or not, this doesn’t require a lot of prep. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “don’t reinvent the wheel” a million times, and there’s a reason this is said to teachers so often. Sure, you could spend hours making an incredibly interactive and engaging slideshow with the latest widgets and such, but I can guarantee that someone else made something similar that you can easily find online. Besides, those widgets won’t be so innovative in another year or two, and then you’d have to remake the darn thing.

We’re not trying to win Teacher of the Year here. We’re trying to survive. Before you consider making anything yourself, scour the internet. Teachers Pay Teachers offers plenty of free things, and there are countless teacher blogs that share materials. You might also search your school or district’s shared drive for materials if no one on your team feels like sharing. Whatever you do, change it up, and keep them moving along so they can’t say you’re boring, you suck, or they always do the same thing in your class.

4. Professionalism

This is probably the most important standard to pay attention to if you’re gonna take shortcuts on most of the other stuff, and it isn’t as fancy as it sounds. This standard is about showing up on time, looking like a functional human being, and not being a giant pain in the butt.

If you always show up on time, are rarely absent, and always fulfill the crap that’s asked of you, they are much less likely to start looking at what you are doing with a microscope. Admin needs adult bodies in the classroom more than anything else, and they appreciate anyone who doesn’t add to the stress of trying to find a willing adult to babysit loads of other people’s kids (because they sure ain’t gonna do it!)

If you don’t wear Spongebob crocs and ripped jeans (this is like a mortal sin to admin!), and you show up when you’re supposed to and at least appear to be doing something in class, they won’t have a real reason to bother you. You also want to keep your mouth shut during meetings. Even when they ask for your opinion, I can guarantee that they do not actually want it.

And while I am a big-mouthed complainer of all the things, I highly recommend just keeping your trap shut if you actually want to stay at that school. Don’t let them fool you. They really don’t want you to ask questions and they definitely don’t want your input.

Teacher telling a colleague that kids don't care as long as they get the grade they want.

5. Assessment and Feedback

This is where the main issue of time happens for most teachers.

When will you grade all of the work the students complete throughout the day? Whether you take home a stack of essays to grade every weekend, or only do what you can when you’re in the building, it doesn’t affect your pay, does it? And don’t fool yourself into thinking that you have to do all the grading and give all that feedback to be an effective teacher.

I have noticed over many years that almost all students completely disregard the comments and edits I’ve made on their work, go right to the grade, decide if it matches the level of effort they put in, and then throw it in the recycling bin most of the time. The only time they will ask you about it is if it seems wildly low, which is a great reason to use a rubric! In my opinion, if you use a detailed rubric for your assignments, it takes care of the need to give tons of feedback. It also serves as justification for the grade you gave. You don’t need additional comments if every possibility is included on the rubric. You also don’t need to edit the crap out of the stuff because they aren’t going to do anything with those edits.

For a while, with older high school students, I’ve told them that if they want my edits and extensive feedback they need to print their paper and hand it to me the day it is due. Otherwise, they can just turn it in online. Almost every time students turn in about 5 printed papers out of 100. I still give them a detailed rubric, so why waste my time if they don’t want it?

Take Grading Shortcuts

Another strategy to use is just checking basic things like homework with a glance in class. You don’t need to collect and read everything, but every once in a while just lean over and actually read some of it to make sure it isn’t total nonsense.

Also, save yourself some time and don’t grade everything that is turned in. Remember, you don’t have to grade everything they do! Anything I know I don’t want to look at I give out on paper, that way I can collect it, shove it in a drawer, and we all forget about it. If you tell them it won’t be graded then they won’t put in any effort, so keep that a secret.

Ready to Quiet Quit as a Teacher?

The most important part of doing a whole lot less as a teacher is that the students have to like you.

That doesn’t mean you have to bribe them with candy, go too easy on them, or be their best friend. It means you have to be fair, nice, extremely flexible and understanding (even when their excuses are ridiculous) and you do have to grade on the easier side. If you are going to be a stickler in discipline, grading, and/or late policies, the students will do nothing but complain about you and use things like giving less feedback against you.

Will students take advantage of your kindness? Yup. Would some of them benefit from a teacher who goes much harder and has very high expectations? Maybe. But again, most teachers have left the profession, and those difficult teachers won’t last very long, I can guarantee it.

What if Quiet Quitting Isn’t Enough?

These are my tried-and-true suggestions to quietly quit in teaching to help save your sanity. But sometimes quiet quitting isn’t enough. You may hit a point where no amount of quiet quitting will keep you in your job. If you’re one of those teachers looking for a way out of teaching, you are not alone. Check out some of my other posts about leaving the teaching profession below. (P.S. The Teacher Career Coach Course can help you with this if you are interested!)

Author Bio

Jane Morris is the pen name of a teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself, but she is afraid she’ll lose her job. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in writing from an even fancier (more expensive) university. She has a loving family and cares about making people laugh more than anything else.

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One Comment

  1. Kathy January 31, 2023 at 1:42 am

    Amen. I’ve been quiet quitting all year. Just overly fed up with the constant bs. One teacher got her trash chewed out by the district ‘instruction’ expert because she didn’t take papers home to grade on her own time, that’s when I knew I was done bending over backwards and neglecting my own family and myself for a place that doesn’t value my time.

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